Hey Kevin great article. I too am currently looking for a pellet smoker. I’ve narrowed it down between a Yader, Memphis Pro and the Rec Tec. The Green Mountain did not seem very well built. The wheels looked liked the would break on the first roll and the stainless steel door was flimsy and did not have a good seal. I know the Rec Tec has a 6 year warranty. Do you know how long the warranties are on the other two?
The first name to kick start our list of the best pellet grill review is the Camp Chef PG24 Pellet grill. It measures 45 inches by 21 inches by 51 inches, in dimensions. This pellet grill weighs 127 pounds and capacitates a 550 cubic inch cooking surface. It has a removable upper rack, and it comes with a stainless steel food probe. Camp Chef PG24 Pellet grill comes with an LED digital temperature control system, and has a patented down cleaning system. It can provide temperatures from 160 degrees to 500 degree Fahrenheit, and has an internal sensor.
As the last criteria that we took into consideration, we have shared this a couple of times but we really wanted to focus on variety. We not only wanted to share some of the best tops of the line brands in the industry but we also wanted to share brands that may be unknown but offer excellent craftsmanship and material design. For instance, some of the grills we have shared are perfectly designed for everyday use, while some are designed for large events and parties.
Editor's Note: If you're looking to upgrade your backyard cooking setup this summer, you're probably in need of a little advice. We're longtime admirers of the folks behind AmazingRibs.com, the site dedicated to unraveling the science of barbecue and grilling. Please welcome back Max Good, the only person in the world whose full-time job is testing, rating, and reviewing grills and smokers. The database he maintains includes over 500 grills and smokers, ranging in price from $30 to $50,000. When it comes to barbecue equipment, nobody knows it better.
Manufacturers advertise this piece of equipment as both a smoker and a grill, but it's best to think of it as a superb indirect-heat convection smoker, not a grill. Most models just don't do as good a job of searing a steak as a charcoal grill or even a gas grill with a sear burner can. You'll sear steaks better on a $20 hibachi than on most pellet smokers.
Cleaning/Maintenance: The grease catcher on this flat top is pretty decent. It is located on the bottom left hand side and all the oil/grease gets caught without anything dripping elsewhere. I usually wipe the grease catcher's orifice down with a paper towel to ensure it does not get clogged up over time. Other flat-top grills have either grease catchers that drip onto the leg of the grill or have them in the back of the flat top which is a little inconvenient getting to. As for cleaning after every use, I use a stainless steel scrapper/chopper to wipe the grill clean after I am done cooking. I scrape everything down into the grease catcher. For saucy foods or foods that might stick to the flat top, I use water when the grill is still hot to scrape it off and send it to the grease catcher. Afterwards, I put a little bit of oil onto the flat top and spread it all over using paper towels to maintain the seasoning before putting the cover on. Total clean-up time and re-seasoning takes roughly 3 minutes.
At present, pellet grills are mainstream products, with pellet refills filling the market versus having to find timber, sticks, and charcoal to start a fire (since these pellets are made of sawdust, it’s easier for them to cast fire and completely combust into smoke with minimal residue). Old school pit masters dislike this product mostly because it’s too easy to use, like a microwave versus an oven.
The small burn pot is covered with a large deflector plate that absorbs the heat and spreads it out below the cooking surface making them essentially wood-fired convection ovens. Flare-ups are a thing of the past. You need to keep the plate clean because it is right below the food and if you leave sauce and grease on there, it can smolder and leave soot on your food. Carbon buildup will also diminish its heat transmission.
Thanks for the great information and the research you did. I am a retail store owner in Boise, Idaho area and we sell a pellet grill smoker in our store. I would like to encourage to look at the Sawtooth Pellet Grill. It is made local here and is American Made. It is an excellent grill for the price with an awesome company backing it. You can find their website at sawtoothpelletgrills.com. Again thanks for the information and if you do another publication regarding pellet grills, I would love to see what your opinion of the Sawtooth would be 🙂
Temperature range is an important factor. What you’ll need will depend on what kind of cooking you want to do. Top pellet grills can hit temperatures between 180 F to 425 F, enough for baking, smoking, roasting, and grilling. On the other hand, ioif you want to sear meat you need something that reaches the 500-550 F range. A functioning thermometer is a must. You’ll need a precise and accurate reading so you’ll know you’re cooking your meat at the right temperature.
This smoker is one totally awesome product. It is more that just a smoker, it is a true convection oven, we have baked bread in it! As for being able to hold the temp for low and slow, wonderful. The beef that I smoked was delectable. I just this week smoked 10 venison loins at the same time; it took 1 hour for the most tender, delicious venison I have ever tasted!
Hey Shannon – they all have their merits. Budget dictates a lot. If you’re in the $1000 or under range, Green Mountain and Rec Tec are great choices. Both have developed near cult followings, with GMG a little ahead of the curve on that front having been around a bit longer. I love the Yoders as far as moving up on the price range is concerned. Will last you forever and they offer a solid product with great support. MAK grills are just beautifully made. There’s no other way to put it. The “General” models are superbly crafted. Love that MAK offers built in cold smoking as a capability. Am I helping here or just making things worse? Hahaha.
Looking for a pellet grill to do all sorts of cooking with. I am between a Rec Tec, Camp Chef Woodwind, Gorilla and Yoder. Steaks, burgers, chicken, ribs, brisket, vegetables, etc. All in one. And want to have the option to sear meat, veggies as well. Ive seen so many different reviews my head is spinning. My budget is $700-$1,000 but willing to go up if necessary. I hear some can sear, some take too long to heat up, some dont hold the temp consistently. I am a low maintenance so ease of use important. Does not have to be portable.
The Z Grills Wood Pellet Grill and Smoker comes with Smart Smoke Technology, which lets you set and forget your grilling. It accurately sets and maintains the desired temperature using an automated electric feed system, heating your unit from 180 degrees F to 450 degrees F. We’ve gotten used to smokers taking around 30-40 minutes to heat up, but with this unit, it took only 20 minutes for the temperature to settle in!
Hey Pete, first thanks for your kind words. Traeger pellet grills fell off a bit quality wise over the past several years. That said, they’ve hired a new CEO – formerly from the Skull Candy Head Phone company – who brought that company’s valuation up considerably. I see them making moves to get back to their roots… aligning themselves with some of the more well known names in BBQ again. From a build quality, they’re making solid pellet grill bodies using fairly heavy steel. The area I’d like to see them improve on is the controllers they use. Right now, GMG is making great strides in claiming some of the entry level pellet smoker market share away from Traeger. This is due to a superior PID controller, advances in built in Wi-Fi monitoring, and outstanding customer service.
Do not confuse a pellet grill for gas grills. Like the name suggests, a pellet grill obviously uses pellets for cooking its food. But do not doubt its competence with any other gas or convection appliances. It cooks just as well, if not better. And the secret to this are in its pellets. While pellets vary from brand to brand, the best ones have more wood and less binders like sawdust etc.
Most pellet smokers are wood-burning ovens: great for ribs, turkey, brisket, and pork shoulders, but not so great for grilling steaks and burgers. The FEC PG series was one of the first lines of pellet burners to offer a sear station, a cast iron cooking grate right over the fire pot where the wood pellets burn. It isn't the best setup for searing, but it's better than most other pellet searing schemes. The real beauty of the Fast Eddy's design is that it produces meat with a deep mahogany finish, much like a competition-grade offset smoker. It also has two upper-level heat zones, for a total of four distinct temperature zones.
I think you get the picture. In any case, you can see how pellet smoking really does have its own culture to it. I really hope you’ve found value in this selection of Pellet Grill reviews. If so, please consider sharing it with your BBQ friends! And for sure comment below and let me know about your favorite pellet grills, pellet blends, and methods! 🙂
If cost isn't an issue, check out the Elite Wood Fire. This 200+ pound behemoth from Memphis Grills costs more than some used cars, but it's fully loaded. Wifi-enabled, an extraordinary temperature range, and a cooking space large enough to be used by a small restaurant - the Elite has it all. The pellet hopper is built to match capacity, with enough fuel space to smoke for up to 62 hours straight.
When you are looking for a smoker, one of the features that you want is to be able to control the temperature. This means that you will be able to use both a high and low temperature for smoking everything from poultry to fish to beef to vegetables to cheese. This is exactly what you get with the Camp Chef. It has an LED digital temp control system that comes with a food probe made from stainless material.
The first time I grilled something on it -- pulled pork, which takes a long time on the grill -- the fire kept going out on me. My husband called the company, and they said they knew they had that problem. So he told the nice lady on the end of the line that what they needed to do was to add something to the hopper to keep it jiggling just a little so that the pellets continued to go down. "We're working on a solution," she said. "I just told you the solution," my husband, who's a mechanic and loves solving mechanical problems using unusual, but straightforward solutions. His trick? -- get one of those cheap, plastic, clip-on fans and clip it to the hopper, pointing the fan down into the hopper. The fan jiggles it just enough. The air into the hopper "couldn't hurt, either," he told me.
Of course, we recommend our pellets and have proven them to work fantastically with all of our grills, but we would never be short-sighted enough to say that our owners must only use our pellets. That just seems a bit, well, wrong. From our testing and customer feedback, the following brands all worked very well: B&B, BBQrs Delight, Cooking Pellets.com, Lumberjack and Smoke Ring.
A pellet grill like the Rec-Tec is a breeze to use; subsequently, you won’t need to manage a migraine when barbecuing or smoking. Most models now accompany an electronic start highlight, which means you don’t need to use gas or charcoal for grilling or smoking (Read here). Furthermore, with this element, you don’t likewise need to manage the temperature changes in the earth on the grounds that the unit will be lighted by its electric igniter whatever happens, and after that, it will begin warming and cooking your nourishment. Furthermore, regardless of you are a piece of a little or a major family unit, there is the correct model with the size perfect for your family’s cooking needs.
Hello Mark! Thanks for commenting here. The Kalamazoo Hybrid Grill looks like a BEAST! If you can swing it, I’d go for it. I truly enjoyed cooking on the Memphis Grill, which is to date the most high end pellet grill I’ve used. It offered a nice blend of professional grade convection with the wood fire taste of the pellets. The Kalamazoo hybrid really does seem to offer one step beyond with the addition of charcoal and wood chunks. I see that Derrick Riches of About.com stands behind the Kalamazoo brand. You’re hard pressed to get a better endorsement of a grilling product than that! Keep me posted at email@example.com and let me know how your search goes! 🙂
Hey Mike, thanks for touching base. It’s always a pleasure to connect with you, man! If you have the space, I’d go with the JB. You can always cook under your pellet smoker’s capacity, but you can never cook more than it will hold! As such, you can always find use for the extra room in the JB. It’s like the umbrella and the rain scenario – bring one and you’ll never need it. Go out without one, and it’ll pour on you! Holding temp and managing the cook is the same for each of these GMGs. You’ll have smooth going with both, I’m sure. If you are cooking in very cold temps, you might want to consider the thermal blanket GMG puts out. Helps a bit re: getting to / maintaining temp. Some folks use it all the time as they feel it keeps more smoke in the chamber. As you know, nearly all pellet smokers produce a bit less smoke than your barrel smoker will. Hope this helps, bro! Thanks for your comments!
Camp chef grill is usually compact and ideal for outdoor adventures like camping but some models of the Traeger grill are hard to camp with. The Traeger grill is usually large and ideal for home cooking or large parties and weekend gatherings. However, you can still find small compact designs of its model. It depends on your demand. Nonetheless, even the smallest model of the Traeger grill can pack a lot of food. As for the big green egg grill, it has a unique shape, like an egg, but comes in different sizes for your needs. Therefore, you can buy one that suits your needs.
Number two when cooking with charcoal (yes plain Kingsford is good stuff if you do it right, a lot of the cheaper brick and cheaper lump can put some weird twangs in your food) brick or lump can produce quality high temp steaks or slow & low bbq! To add some nice flavor add some wood, but do your homework! I think Clark ‘Smokey’ Hale has one of the best books ever for the grill and Q master, “The Great American Manual on Grilling and BBQ or something like that. Last I saw you can grab a used one on Amazon for a few cents and some shipping. The most prolific thing I read in there that so many miss, is burn your wood and your charcoal to where it is literally a coal of gray ash covered glowing ember. Do that and you will find a new flavor in your cooking! Problem is so many places think heavy smoke is great, as they are trying to imitate cold smoke flavors! They are not the same! All this talk I see here about, “I want heavy smoke flavor.” I can tell you if you burn your wood and your charcoal (and I feel even lump needs to be well on it’s way to gray ash covered or you get bitter smoke even though many say not necessary) to a red ember with gray ash covering 80 to 90% minimum preferably completely covered your flavor profile will change. Many supposedly good bbq restaurants I have been in serve something with a bitter or ash flavor, which I find much less enjoyable.
We love recommending and reviewing wood pellet smoker grills, but we also want you to get the most out of them once you purchase. Without proper care and maintenance, even the best pellet smoker is bound to have a shorter lifespan. Therefore, how you use your smoker and how you maintain it after use greatly determines how long it will serve you. A little bit of work will go a long way toward extending the life of your smoker. A thorough cleaning of the smoker should occur at least once a year. If you frequently use it, you should have it done at least three times a year. Buying quality pellets will extend its life as well.
However, with a pellet smoker, you can ensure that new pellets are being fed into the fire automatically, ensuring that it burns for longer and while it burns, it imparts with its flavors. It doesn’t need to be soaked and fed into a burning pile of coal to work. Above that, sawdust, when separated by the heat and being burned, gets a larger surface area to burn with and thus sends out a bigger burst of flavor per pellet.
It also has the standardized dial-in digital control with LED readout (not to the point that it has WiFi like the Green Mountain Grills Davy Crockett Pellet Grill, but still quite convenient). However, it’s rated low on this list because of poor quality control. Too many customers ended up with bad Pit Bosses that have inconsistent temperature control (going all the way to 615° Fahrenheit).
We have shifted to a new house and here we have a very nice backyard. We were thinking of having pellet grill for the backyard for friends and family gatherings for making our holidays memorable. According to your review I think Camp Chef SmokePro DLX Wood Pellet Grill and Smoker | PG24B will be a good option for us. Do you have any other suggestion for us as it will be our first and we don’t have much knowledge about it.
One final word of caution when it comes to pellet pricing. If you see a price on pellets that seems too good to be true, there’s probably a reason for it. If the pellets you got an amazing deal on creates twice as much ash, doesn’t burn as well, generates wild temp swings and ends up ruining a $65 brisket were they worth it? What about if that flame out or temp swing cost you a whole pit full of meat and ruined the family reunion the next day? We are all for saving money as much as anyone, but perspective is key here. We are in no way saying that great pellets cannot be had for pennies per pound, but we are definitely saying, that if those pennies saved are not on a proven brand that you can trust then it’s probably not a bet worth taking.
The first thing to consider before purchasing a pellet smoker is your budget. This will allow you to buy the best pellet smoker for the money. If you are a beginner, you do not need to get an expensive unit in order to produce results. However, if you have some experience and you want to take your smoking to the next level, you may look into a more expensive model with the goal of getting some of the features you want.
Moving on from the orangish-red looks of the predecessor RT-680, this newer model has a black hood, with stainless steel built. It is 2.5” taller than the RT-680 and has 2 stainless steel bull horn handles on the outside that will have you falling in love with its built. Everything from the towel rings, the controller shelf, the hopper lid to the spill-proof bucket hook is stainless steel and even the smallest of details like the laser cutout of “Rec Tec Grills” on the side will never fail to impress.
When looking at a pellet grill also consider the material its made from. A majority of pellet grills on the market are made from painted steel. However, the quality of that steel and the paint can vary. A good high-temp powder coat paint can stand up to high heat without blistering or flaking. This is essential, because once the steel is exposed, it will rust. Even if the grill body is painted well, you have to look inside. The fire pot and diffuser plate have the potential to corrode and are two of the most common parts that need replacing. With some painted steel grills, such as Traegers®, you can can upgrade the grill and hopper lids to stainless steel, as well as the firepot, diffuser, and drip pan.
As we started to learn more about pellet grills we realized that we had to take different aspects into consideration when it comes to the quality of the grill. With that said, we are eager to share with our readers the criteria that we used to come up with this top ten list. With this, we can say that all of the grills we share are made of the best quality materials and craftsmanship to be able and withstand the test of time and provide a delicious meal. Other than that, we share this criterion so individuals can find the best pellet grill that suits there needs.
Thank you all for a great site and an informative discussion. I am a newbie to smoking and presently have a charcoal grill for when I have more time and a gas grill for a fast meal. Its time to replace my gas grill so I am looking at alternative options. Is a pellet grill overkill, or a timely expedition, if I want to grill a couple steaks or chicken breasts during week nights? I’d also be interested in smoking larger hunks of meat (and ribs!) less often, but am wondering if a pellet grill can cover both? How long does it take a pellet grill to get to temp (e.g. 450°)? With the indirect heat, can you get char marks on your meat? Thanks in advance for the info!
Now, what that means is that if you have a lower hopper capacity, your pellet smoker will run for a smaller period of time. It also depends on the cooking temperature you have selected for your cooking purposes. However, at higher temperatures, they will provide less smoke; thus would be more suitable for grilling and barbecuing, but not so much for smoking.
You want your smoker to retain heat and to maintain a constant temperature. If you purchase something that’s inexpensive, yet made with a thin metal, you’re going to regret it because you’re going to be constantly fighting with the temperature. You could purchase the best smoker pellets, but if you don’t have a high quality smoker, it is all for not.
***Update: 11/2014: It's been a year now and I still adore this little grill. I've got a kamado and 3 different kettles and this is by far the most convenient and easy to use. The smoke rings this guy puts on a brisket are amazing and the flavor is the perfect balance of wood flavor without overpowering the meat. I've researched about 15 different pellet grills and I still can't find a better value than what this grill offers
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Hey John – great question. My experience is that I use maybe 8 lbs of pellets for a 7 or 8 hour cook at 275 degrees. Pellet grills are relatively fuel efficient. The brand of pellet you choose will play into this. Cost for pellets varies by manufacturer, similar to charcoal. I think you’ll find them very efficient if you’re just firing them up for high heat, shorter grilling sessions.
I have had a Traeger Junior Elite for 4 years. In that time I have used it < 50 times. I have replaced a fan motor, a fuse, and now I have been trying to get a thermometer replaced. First time, the service guy dropped the ball and never sent it. Second time- the thermometer got sent around to multiple post offices. Third time, never got to me- apparently they sent it to the wrong address. Fourth time- still waiting. It's been 5 weeks now, and I cannot get the part, and have no idea if the part will fix the grill. Everyone in service has been polite, but incompetent as well. I have had 2 flash fires in the grill from the auger pushing too many pellets into the hot pot, the temperature fluctuates wildly. Save yourself the frustration: avoid Traeger at all costs!
Well built and compact, this smoker and grill still has a 300 square inch cooking space, and is generally big enough to fit a small turkey inside, so it’s ample for six to eight people. It’s really easy to use, with an automated electric start, front mounted thermometer and idiot proof digital controls that make this so simple, an absolute beginner could walk up to it, have a quick play around and start cooking.
I also was a certified KCBS judge but never judged at an event. Their judging system was flawed in my opinion because if you truly follow their system it is possible that them best tasting piece of meat might not win. In cutting horses (not a judge but read all the rules as I showed a fair amount back then) you were always supposed to judge the best overall horse to win. I asked about leaving a process to make sure the piece of meat you feel is best to win and was told absolutely not you have to judge presentation points, tender points & etc. and not place based on your opinion of the best piece of meat! Not that KCBS is a bad organization, it’s rules didn’t fit my thought process. Passed their class and got the t-shirt just never agreed, was always a spectator.
Hey Brad, you’ve got 3 great grills there. Rec Tec has the edge on Pellet quantity. I like the build quality and support on the Grilla a bit better, especially with the extra insulation and updated comp wheel set up. Figure 10 min or so to get to top temps. Just remember to drop to around 300 F temp setting before going into the shut down cycle on any pellet grill if you’re cranking it up to the highest setting.
“We love pellet grills but didn’t like the designs of the models on the market. They are more like an oven than a grill. MAK Grills are designed to be the best in class. You get outstanding BBQ flavor and safe cooking with real wood, along with an automatic lighting and fuel feed system. Simply turn the grill on and you’re cooking in minutes! Our direct heat FlameZone ® feature is pioneering the industry for “gas grill like” cooking without the hassle of flare-ups and burned food.” — MAK Grills